Emphasis Placed on Social Issues at Premier Science Meeting

In his review of the week's presentations at the seventh annual savanna science network meeting in the Kruger National Park (KNP) Dr Allan Andersen from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), sustainable ecosystems, urged scientists to consider the application and appropriateness of their research to the mandate and mission of SANParks.

Although several of the week's presentations could be related to biodiversity, not many of the findings had been translated in terms of economic growth and employment opportunities. He said that while appropriate social science research projects have not really featured on this environmental science platform in the past, it should be accommodated more in future.

The KNP hosted the meeting which took place from April 19 to 24, 2009 in the Gold Fields Auditorium in Skukuza. Unlike previous years where KNP issues were discussed, this year the meeting broadened its scope, concentrating on research done in savannas, but also enticing cross park research and learning in the savanna domain, spanning arid and moister savannas.

"This is our premier annual event for the scientific services department of SANParks and we are pleased that the interest among the scientific community is growing every year with about 226 delegates who attended this year. Our network of collaborating scientists and scientific institutions is growing and this provides us with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge to better manage our national parks," commented head of SANPArks's Scientific Services, Danie Pienaar.

Danie further stated that "This meeting enables scientists and ecologists from all over the world to come together, share information, debate approaches and interpretations of findings of research projects and possibly collaborate on additional priority research ventures." The savanna science network meeting provides an important forum for dialogue and debate about ecological science and conservation matters. It is also a pivotal forum for future research collaborations between scientists working throughout South Africa and other savannas in the world.

Scientists from numerous South African universities, SANParks and a number of high profile overseas universities in the UK, USA, Sweden, Mozambique and the Netherlands have spoken at the meeting. Presentations focused on their research findings, often at the cutting edge of technological developments, and what these mean for the management of savannas and protected areas.

Many topical issues in ecological science had been covered, including climate change, elephant management, fire research, biodiversity monitoring and change, animal disease, soil erosion, impacts of alien biota and freshwater catchment management. The meeting focused specifically on the understanding of the mechanisms and drivers that can cause unacceptable change in ecosystems. Data, information and knowledge generated through these research projects provide insights and recommendations which are used by park officials to improve the effectiveness of management of the areas under their custodianship.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari